Antarctica: Researchers discover oldest DNA found so far in marine sediments

sediments from the deep sea
Million-year-old DNA found in Antarctica

Off the coast of Antarctica, a research team discovers the genome of creatures that lived a million years ago. This makes it the oldest DNA found to date in marine sediments. The find may also provide insight into the consequences of current climate change.

A research team led by the University of Tasmania has discovered genetic material dating back a million years in the deep sea off Antarctica. According to the researchers, this is the oldest marine DNA, according to the University of Bonn, whose researchers were involved in the discovery. The study was published in the journal “Nature Communications”. According to the researchers, the findings show that DNA in deep-sea sediments (SedaDNA) could open the way for studying long-term responses of marine ecosystems to climate change.

The seafloor DNA was obtained during IODP Expedition 382 “Iceberg Alley and Subantarctic Ice and Ocean Dynamics” in 2019.

(Photo: Michael Weber)

“This is by far the oldest verified marine SedaDNA,” explains Linda Armbrecht, who led the study from the University of Tasmania. Among the organisms discovered were diatoms whose DNA can be traced back to half a million years. The sediments analyzed were obtained during an expedition in 2019.

Analyzing ancient sediment DNA is a new technique that is helping to decipher what creatures existed in the sea and when in the past. In addition, the times of major changes in sediment composition can be associated with climate changes. These findings could help make predictions about how the marine life around Antarctica will respond to current and future climate change.

Diatoms are abundant during warm periods

The data showed that diatoms were abundant during warm climate periods. The last such change in the Scotia Sea food web occurred about 14,500 years ago. “This is an interesting and important change related to global and rapid sea level rise and massive ice loss in Antarctica due to natural warming,” said Michael Weber, co-author of the study from the University of Bonn. Warming has apparently led to an increase in marine productivity around Antarctica.

According to the researchers, the findings will also help assess current and future changes in marine life around the frozen continent. Antarctica is one of the most vulnerable regions on Earth due to climate change. Research into the past and present responses of the polar marine ecosystem to environmental and climate changes is therefore critical, according to the statement from the University of Bonn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *